PortlandOnline

POL Government Elected Officials Commissioner Nick Fish
Federal LT2 Mandate - July 11, 2013

For a decade, the City of Portland has worked diligently with a broad coalition to secure relief from the unfunded federal LT2 mandate (Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule).

 

The LT2 rule requires us to do two things: treat our water for cryptosporidium, and cover or replace our uncovered finished drinking water reservoirs.

 

We pursued a number of paths to avoid the requirement to replace our reservoirs, including working with our federal delegation, filing a lawsuit in federal court, appealing directly to the EPA, and requesting exceptions from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

 

First, the good news – we are the only large water system in the country to receive a variance to avoid additional treatment of our water in the Bull Run Watershed. The Portland Water Bureau successfully developed a rigorous sampling and monitoring plan that demonstrated the high quality of raw water in the Bull Run.

 

Next, the bad news – despite our best efforts, the City has been unsuccessful in its attempts to avoid or delay the reservoir-related requirement. As recently as May of this year, the Oregon Health Authority denied our request for a second time.

 

Having exhausted all options and with legal deadlines looming, we must prepare to comply with the rule. A June 3, 2013 statement from the City Council – signed by Mayor Hales and Commissioners Novick, Saltzman, and myself – regarding this decision is posted on the City’s website: www.portlandoregon.gov/water/article/452368

 

Requests from the Public

 

I have heard from a number of Portlanders who have asked Council to engage our federal delegation to (1) obtain a deferral, (2) write an exception for Portland into the Safe Drinking Water Act, and (3) change LT2 legislation to exempt Portland.

 

I visited Washington, D.C. late last month to meet with our delegation – including Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Earl Blumenauer – on this and other issues.

 

Based on those conversations, it is very clear to me that Portland has come to end of the road, and that there is no further recourse we can seek from Washington.

 

There is no waiver to exempt us from covering or replacing our reservoirs, and our repeated requests for a deferral have been denied. No large water system in the country is exempt from this rule, and despite our best efforts, an exception for Portland is not possible.

 

Looking Forward

 

Thanks to our visionary Bull Run Watershed system, Portland enjoys the best water in the world. As your new Water Commissioner, my top priority is preserving the quality of our outstanding drinking water.

 

I understand the frustration many Portlanders feel with the LT2 mandate – and I share it.

 

I am committed to a transparent public process as we plan for the future of the historic reservoirs. This year, Council allocated $15,000 to the Parks Bureau to begin a conversation about how to honor these sites and create public spaces our community can be proud of.

 

For more information on the LT2 rule, including a timeline of key events, please visit: www.portlandoregon.gov/water/53849